Chapter 0:

Lost Subject

Scraped Souls

Ringing. A sound like hell itself had been unleashed. Fire, burning, hot. Blood, dripping. Burning flesh. A smell like acid and death. Children crying. People crying. Shooting. Explosions.

“We can use this…if it dies it won’t be a waste.” “A being this weak, really? Won’t it just die right away?” “It’s worth a shot. Better to use free scrap than material that must be paid for and cultivated.”

Pain…so much. Flesh being torn; sinew breaking and reforming. Bones reforming. Death and rebirth. So much agony. Laughing…evil laughing. Electrocution. Cutting. Poison. Needles.

“Please! Stop! It hurts! Everything hurts! I can’t breathe! My heartbeat makes my body ache! I can’t…I can’t see clearly anymore…my legs won’t move…”

“Useless”…”still scrap"…”waste of time”…”good for nothing”…”why won’t you just die already…?”

Light again. ‘Why am I still alive, didn’t I die?’ Hands pulling. “Life detected! Retrieved!” “They’re so small and fragile…this is one of the famed cyborg-hybrids?” “This one’s probably not worth much, but it can still be used in our research.”

Beating. hunger. Shooting. Stabbing. “Hahaha! No matter what, it really won’t break will it?” “Fascinating!” “Not a human.” “Slave.” “Scum.” “Trash.” “Weakling!” “Useless.” “Why were you even born? Why didn’t you just die?”

Shooting again…terrified screaming…crying children again…just like before….” Please! Don’t Hurt them! Take me! Let them go!”

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The boy tucked his knees to his chest and made himself as small as possible. “Was it a bad dream?” An older man with a neat, graying beard ran to kneel next to the couch and gently rubbed the boy’s back.

“It was…horrible…everything awful was…replaying in my head again…” He panted weakly. 

“It’s okay, you’re safe now. No one will hurt you here.” The man said, trying as hard as he could to sooth the young man’s fears.

 The boy flopped over onto his side and curled up into a tight ball. He was so exhausted, but he never wanted to close his eyes again. Bad things would replay in his head if he did. Besides, he'd spent long enough asleep and isolated.

“I have an idea.” The man got up and rummaged through his suitcase.

“Here” he said, coming back with a pair of headphones. “They cancel out noise and I’ll play some music for you, okay?”

 The old man swiped his hand through the air, summoning his data screen. He swiped through what he had been working on before the boy’s screaming had woken him up and pulled up his music playlist. 

“Here…is that okay?” he asked, playing with the sound controller. The boy nodded, chewing on his nail.

"This is...I like it. Is" The boy asked curiously. 

"Yeah. This is classical music; music  from thousands of years ago. It's my favorite. Have you ever listened to it before?"

"No. I...I don't remember anything from before the lab and the scientists never played music. They did...noise test how high of a sound our ears and brains could take..." He shuddered.

“Okay…it’s alright, I’m right here.” The old man rested his hand on the boy’s back and the child scooted closer and nestled against the side of his leg.

"I'm...worried. This is...not bad. What if it's just a dream? What if I wake up and I'm back...there? I never want to go back."

“I’ll stay right next to you until you fall asleep. You’re safe here. I won’t let anything hurt you. I know you don’t have a reason to trust me yet, but I want you to try and believe in me.”

The boy nodded slightly and tucked his legs to his chest. He was still clueless and in a haze because everything was so new and strange to him. But it wasn't entirely bad. Once he'd adjusted and quit being motion sick, riding on the train they had taken across the country had been very fun. Everything was so big and scary, but the buildings were cool and looked like they could reach up to heaven. He hadn't eaten real food in decades and the man who was taking care of him would let him get whatever he wanted. His body was still adjusting to eating and processing nutrients, but he'd tasted a lot of yummy things. 

He wasn't quite sure what was going on and he was weary of the old man...but he also felt safe around him and got scared if he couldn't see him. The idea of being alone in this big new world was too much and, despite not knowing each other, the man was very nice to him. He couldn't remember his name...maybe it started with a J? But he wasn't used to people having names and struggled to remember the ones of the people he had met in the last few days. He didn't even have a name of his own, after all. The man seemed uncomfortable with this and would just call him 'boy' or 'you' if he couldn't get his attention in any other way. 

His body felt so heavy...was it due to the shock of being rescued and all the change? Probably. He'd been tired all day but was too edgy to sleep on the train because there were so many people there. But maybe it would be okay to sleep now that the man was siting with him? It was odd; he felt scared around the old man, but he also was scared to be away from him and needed to stick to his side. 

The music in headphones was very pretty. There were sounds in it like a rubber band and a horn, but nicer. He knew nothing about what instruments were, but the music was one of the most beautiful things he'd heard. His eyes fluttered. He wanted to fight sleep out of fear, but he was too exhausted. Like so many other times in his life, he just surrendered himself ti whatever would happen.

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The boy drifted back to sleep surprisingly quick, but the tears of worry leaking out of his eyes as he did so didn’t escape the old man’s notice.

Trying not to move too much, he pulled up his digital screen again, but he couldn’t focus on his paperwork after being interrupted, and he couldn't sleep himself since the boy was snuggled right up to him. He sighed and looked down at the nameless boy.

A modified human, part robot. He couldn’t believe that they’d actually found one of the legendary black experiments of the Velber! When the revolution had broken out seventy years ago, there had been two rebel factions; the Velber and the Banu. The Banu’s forces weren’t angels by any means, but the Velber were terrifying. While they were both fighting to free Japan from being an oppressed and lawless colony, the Velber were willing to do anything to get there. They were often compared to the Nazi’s from thousands of years ago. They weren’t genocidal, thank God, but they were similar in that they were willing to push the envelope and do weird, violent, disgusting, and downright inhuman things to get what they wanted and had a penchant of human experimentation. The Banu had also wanted to free Japan but, while they had their own roster of war crimes, they weren't a common and systematic practice. 

The Velber routinely engaged in human experimentation on prisoners, civilians, and their own soldiers alike. The two factions’ end goals had also been vastly different. The Banu’s goal was to reclaim and rebuild Japan as an independent nation and further integrating and upgrading all the technological advances of the last few hundred years. The Velber’s though… they had wanted to completely overhaul the government and legal infrastructure and make Japan into what was essentially a techno-dictatorship. They had also had a detailed plan to annex or invade several other territories and former countries that had never been a part of Japan or Asia. They dreamed of a vast and powerful empire, but they were too brutal for their vision to win. The majority of the surviving Japanese people had no desire to turn around and become oppressors after gaining their freedom. After a civil war, the Velber was pretty much stomped out and the Banu helped build a new government and eventually became the Ban party, one of the top political parties.

The new government had ascended thirty years ago, after sixty years of fighting and things were rather normal now. Japan was famed for simultaneously not straying too far from its 21st century existence but also being one of the most technologically advanced countries. Amazing, really, since the world undergoing a second continental drift seventy-eight years ago had utterly decimated the Asian continent and thrown everything into chaos. The old man looked at the boy’s age estimation. At this point, the best guess they had was that he was born sometime during the fifty years of the Japanese Freedom war. They couldn’t pin-point it, but they did know that he went through cryogenic stasis multiple times. Ignoring the chronological timeline debacle, the boy was about fifteen years old. 

He was the father of a teenager now. Wow, incredible! He'd never been married and wasn't the kind of person who loved children, but it had just kind of happened. James Kibane, the seasoned, retired head of the National Police Investigative Force who had worked his way to the top from the very bottom only to go into private detective work had been enlisted to help the NPIF take down a human experimentation ring. Then, as a thank-you, the NPIF and the government had saddled him with taking care of this boy with nowhere else to go. Not like he had anything better to do than have his life upended in his twilight years, right? Getting to run his own detective agency and do whatever he wanted with his retirement was too much freedom, evidently.

He sighed. What a pain. And he had no clue what the kid had been through or what he needed, except that it had been hell and the boy was going to need a lot of love and care. He didn't even have any information about the boy's age or his past before becoming a lab rate. 

What they could piece together through research was that the boy was taken by the Velber during the war and used in their experiments. At some point, they just put him in stasis and threw him aside when the experiments didn’t work on him the way they wanted them to. Then, at some point, members of the new government who were engaging in illegal experiments and trying to access old Velber research found him and brought him to one of their secret facilities and started experimenting on him, too. There had only been a few survivors of the Velber research and, due to cruelty and biological incompatibility they died soon after the civil war ended. 

The NPIF had gotten the boy checked out by a battery of doctors and were interested in conducting some research on him in the future, but they weren’t interested in using him as a weapon or conducting extensive scientific research. He’d been through enough and they had no desire to continue to traumatize him further. Thirty years of peace was still too short a time; the memory of the cruelties of the Velber and their experiments were still fresh.

Since the government had no desire to hang onto the boy, they decided to dump him on the old man. The man was annoyed that they just decided things for him and didn’t give him a choice in the matter. But...he looked at the the boy's tense face as he slept.

James was annoyed that the NPIF and government had pushed him around but, despite not having a profound love of children, he would have asked to take custody of the boy himself anyway if they hadn’t come up with the idea first. The red tape and entanglement with the law for adopting a biologically modified human would be frustrating, but he couldn’t stand the idea of the kid being sent to some government facility or left to fend for himself. The poor child was born during the years of warfare and then subjected to things no one wanted to know about. He’d never been allowed to have a childhood and never felt safe. He probably had no clue how to take care of himself or survive in a post-war world. James didn't know much about child-rearing, but he was willing to go out on a limb in this case. 

After all...he had heard the boy screaming out in his dreams. The pain. The fear. The self-loathing and abuse. He'd seen the records of the cruelty inflicted on his body. He'd heard what few horrific details about the Velber and government scientists "care" the boy could be coaxed into giving. It reminded James of his time in the military and the early days of the NPIF. That hell, that trauma...the child was basically a younger version of himself, in a way. When he saw the boy being clingy, fearful, and confused by the world, he saw a reflection of himself trying to adjust to civilian life in a peaceful country. Once he made that connection...he didn't have the heart to abandon the boy. 

Even so, this was going to be a lot of work that had slapped him in the face unexpectedly. The boy had no clue who he had been and there was not a chance that any records had survived the war, so they needed to get a birth certificate and Citizen ID Card assigned to him. But that meant that they would have to have genetic testing done to try and pinpoint the boy’s birth date. And the boy also needed to come up with a name so that he could have a legal identity. Until his legal identity and personhood was established, he wouldn’t be able to be enrolled in school. James also had no idea how that was even going to work with his trauma and confusion. And then there was the fact that, until the boy had a name, birthdate, and ID, they couldn’t file the legal paperwork to officially make James his adoptive father. Of course, with his government connections, everyone knew that he was his adoptive father and caregiver, but he felt uneasy not having all the paperwork in order. As a detective, he was a stickler for having every single legal document in proper order.

He took a deep breath. “Calm down, old fart. Tomorrow is tomorrow. Everything is going to work out. We’re making appointments tomorrow to get that stuff done. Your assistants went and got everything set up. The kid will at least have a room and the necessities, and we’ll have food in the house. We’ll be set up good."

 He sat and watched the child sleep. It was a bit strange, knowing that this boy was a technologically enhanced being. He'd seen the records of the Velber's experiments. All the "successful" subjects that the Velber had put on the battlefield were supernaturally strong and practically God-like. This boy certainly  wasn’t anything like that. He was so tiny and frail. You could see his ribs and his skin was as white as snow from spending his life in a lab. He had spiked, fluffy black hair and big, terrified eyes. He was always clutching at his chest while his eyes darted around like a frightened animal. He would literally cling to James' coat like he was afraid his caretaker would disappear. He was a terrified child and nothing more, even with his “upgrades”. Really, how could anyone look at such a vulnerable person and think 'let's experiment on them more and try to take their body apart'?

The nameless boy looked like a little mouse curled up in the bed. The boy whimpered in his sleep and James reached out and caressed his hair. “Geeze, it’s just like having a baby.” James mumbled. But he didn’t really mind, despite his fickle attitude. “This is going to be rough but…nothing for it now.”

Taylor Victoria